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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Dec 26, 2010 4:29pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH; Acoustic Explorations on a Theme

The June '69 shows you are referring to are those two cool ones from Santa Rosa where they definitely had a countrified sound. However there really wasn't an acoustic set per se. More Jerry playing some pedal steel guitar on songs like Green Green Grass, Slewfoot, Dire Wolf (with Bob singing) and Mama Tried. Peter Grant sits in with his Banjo for a track or two as well. While I love theses shows, particularly the 27th, they are very different from the acoustic sets that would emerge in December and through 1970. Take a listen and judge for your self.


I do believe that LIA did include these shows in his discussion of "wooden sets" so you would not be alone in your opinion if you do consider these acoustic sets.


In my opinion everything he discusses prior to 12-69 are examples of the use of a acoustic instruments but aren't really acoustic sets. However it is an excellent read.

As for the band making up stories as a reason to quell the audience, that seems pretty unlikely to me. First that would be very uncharacteristic for this band to do. Manipulating the audience seems to be about the last thing the Grateful Dead would intend to do. Besides i think the banter in the SMU show kind of tells you that it was pretty much an unplanned gig. At one point they want Phil to join them on stage and they can't seem to find him. You hear Weir say where they last saw him and i suspect that they weren't making that up.

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Poster: Reade Date: Dec 27, 2010 7:24am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH; Acoustic Explorations on a Theme

Thanks El (and LIA) for these illuminating responses (and link). Totally agree and now better understand the June '69 stuff.

Let me take another run at those Dec. '69 performances and see if I can better state my posiiton. Two 'late' guys in a week was always just a little bit too much of a coincidence.

I do agree these were unplanned. Naturally. When did Jerry want to plan anything? This way, when he and Weir felt like it, they could buy themselves a half hour- and maybe a little mercy- in front of a raucous crowd expecting loud, mind bending rock 'n roll to road test some acoustic material they were obviously dying to do. Why was this necessary? Please! Look what happened to Dylan when he went in the opposite direction and tried playing electric- just a few years earlier! When patrons start thinking they're beng slipped something other then what they paid for they can get rowdy! If it happened to Dylan it could happen to anybody.

I think i used the wrong word above when I said this was a 'manipulation' of the audience. There can be strong negative connotation to that word which I didn't intend. How about it was more of a prank, but a very necessary one? (If the guys can be heard questioning somebodys whereabouts in between songs that's just part of the prank, not necessarily evidence to the contrary).

I can't fathom them wanting to do planned acoustic performances anywhere, to say nothing of NYC of all places in Feb., without wanting to work a few things out first in front of a crowd in as safe and informal a manner as possible. (And look how they did it- they were thorough enough to do it once in front of a 'home' crowd -12/19- and once way, way out on the road in Texas -12/26. Today it would be thought of as conducting 'Focus Groups,' or Product Testing.) This way if the crowd wasn't ready for it......... it wouldn't be because the band had a reallly bad idea, it was because they were trying to honor the fact that they had an audience sitting there and a late band member.

The fact that history tells us these performances were well received doesn't mean the musicians knew that before they tried. Hindsight sometines I think can blur as much as it enlightens. And this fact- that these performances were well received more or less- also explains why there was no need to do more of this in January. They found out what they needed to know- with the aid of a little pranksmanship along the way.
Were the planned acoustic sets at Bill Grahams's fabled FE in NYC in February the impetus for these impromtu performances, or the result of their success? I'm not sure anyone has that answer.

*One last Air Ball as the time-clock expires: Was it the Spring '77 tour where just about every night it got announced that it was Billy's birthday? December of '69 wouldn't be the only instance of the band having an inside joke of some kind and "sharing" it to some extent with an audience.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Dec 27, 2010 10:56am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH; Acoustic Explorations on a Theme

I have a little disagreement with this...
Whether Phil & Bill were really late, I don't know; it is rather coincidental, but possible.
But the Dead had already tested the waters, back in June, doing acoustic & country pedal-steel stuff at lots of shows. Plus Jerry already had experience playing more country tunes with the New Riders. If these little acoustic mini-sets were premeditated, I would've expected more of them in January '70 - why spring it on just two audiences? But they don't do any more of them until after that New Orleans show.

Also, it was the trend of the times. Lots of bands were pulling out acoustics onstage... Pink Floyd, usually wrapped in a psychedelic haze of improv, typically did an acoustic song or two. Even Led Zeppelin (not the quietest band) would start doing little acoustic sets a few months later. I really doubt the Dead would've needed to 'test out' an outraged audience...'going acoustic' was much the same then as 'going disco' would be 8 years later, part of becoming more mainstream.
I don't believe the Dead had any concerns about losing fans by doing acoustic songs - in the event, quite the opposite happened. (They played to a LOT of new faces in 1970.)

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Dec 27, 2010 9:10am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH; Acoustic Explorations on a Theme

So i agree that this can become a chicken or egg type of argument (were they test marketing to focus groups or because of the impromptu performances did they decide to move in an acoustic direction?). I guess i tend to favor the latter for a few reasons but obviously could never prove it.

As i pointed out to jerry's beard, these two shows would kind of make sense for a late arrival from a band member. As you say, the first one was on home turf so they probably were on their own for getting to the gig. The second one was the day after Christmas so i suspect they were traveling separately as they might have been visiting family the day before. So the coincidence is likely due to the season. As for test marketing an acoustic sound, they had already been playing around with the Workingman's material for months so i think it wasn't a huge surprise where they were headed with their sound. I don't think TC's departure was a coincidence based on that as this was clearly not a direction that would have suited his style.

Comparing to what Dylan did when he plugged in is a little bit extreme. He picked about the biggest stage of acoustic music available to try out his new sound. I think he purposely went for a shock and awe approach and the timing was a bit different. By December '70 CSN had played acoustically at Woodstock and other bands were heading in that direction so for the Grateful Dead to do so was not nearly as dramatic as Dylan plugging in at a folk festival.

Definitely go back and check out those Santa Rosa shows. They are amongst my favorite for '69. I personally think the guitar sound of early '69 was starting to get old by the summer and the change was necessary. Even by April the sound starts to get a bit sloppy at times. One of the cooler things about that Santa Rosa show i linked is Casey Jones. I love the intro. Jerry has not worked out the lead part yet so the song has a very different feel.

Finally, you should be careful around here if you are using words like focus groups. That might suggest that the GD were doing things that could be deemed as a business model in the future. Some people get very upset by this suggestion and their mood rings go black.....

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Poster: Reade Date: Dec 27, 2010 11:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH; Acoustic Explorations on a Theme

Your points are well made.
One thing I wasn't suggesting was that this acousitc direction was unique to them, or even surprising or radical in any way. I'd track back even a little farther than CSN or Woodstock. 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' ('68?) blew it all open in terms of giving everyone permission to get back to softer sounding stuff that told stories. Blowing minds with loud, electric, sometimes largely lyric-less tunes was still allowed but becoming increasingly optional. The whole scene was undeniably headed in this general directon. Merl Haggard got popular. Johnny Cash got his own TV show. The Stones do 'Dead Flowers' on Sticky Fingers. You could spend all day plotting pushpins on a map showing how it was all flowing in this direction.

What I was suggesting was that by '69, though relatively early in the game to us now, the band was already perceived as 'The good "ol Grateful Dead.' They had carved out an amazing place in the musical spectrum for themselves with a likewise uniquely rabid following. By wanting to test this stuff perhaps a little gingerly at first was just natural given the loyalty and expectations of their fan base. Even when one fully intends to go swimming in the ocean they sometimes put their toe in the water initially to gauge things.

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Dec 27, 2010 11:49am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH; Acoustic Explorations on a Theme

Thanks for bringing up the subject, you happen to hit on two of my favorites from '69 with the Santa Rosa and SMU shows. Aside from being great listens, they are definitely worth discussing because they are great examples of a band starting to head in a new direction and doing it in front of their audience.